What’s new for 17-18?

If you’ve engaged in Enterprise & Innovation support through us previously, you are probably wondering what’s happened to the Wednesday IdeasLab and Thursday StartupLab sessions.

We found that so many people were bringing new ideas, having just a couple of fixed-time drop-in sessions per week wasn’t giving everyone enough time and space to get the attention they needed

So, this year we’re opening up more slots and letting you call the shots on when they should happen.  We’re still calling them Labs, but there are now lots of different Lab types to choose from.

How does it work?

The idea is simple – we’ll help you put together a personalised development programme and you work through it at your own pace. Whenever you’re ready to work on something new, you book a Lab session and we’ll supply the space, the know-how, the resources, and, where appropriate, bring in like-minded collaborators.

To make this work though, there are a couple of other things that have changed.

  • Firstly, before you start ‘dropping in’, we’ll ask you to register or re-register by completing a short Registration Form so we can get you into the system.
  • Secondly, we’ll book you in for a 1-2-1 chat (called an IntroLab) so we can find out more about you, what you are trying to achieve and what you are looking for right now.
  • Thirdly, we’ll get you underway so you can start putting together your bespoke development programme from our new menu of different Lab types. Regardless of what you are working on or where you are up to, there’ll be something for you.

To get started right away, please complete the Registration Form.

To find out more about Labs, please visit this page.

Opportunity for freelancers and creative entrepreneurs

Thinking about becoming a creative freelancer?

UCLan Student Enterprise & Incubation invites Lancaster University students to join an interactive session aimed to help you map out how to earn a living from your creativity. The session will look at using the Business Model Canvas in lots of useful and fun ways, helping you to identify how to create, deliver and capture the value of your enterprise.

When? Thursday the 25th May, 9:30am-12:30pm

Where? 4th Floor Media Factory, Preston

If you are interested in attending the workshop please email The Lancaster University Enterprise Team and we can book you a place.

 

 

 

BASE: Bespoke Artist Support & Exchange

Opportunity for freelance artists

Attend a free day packed with workshops, creative discussion and networking for artists in and around the Lancaster Area.

All emerging, aspiring and established artists are welcome to join the BASE network where you’ll get the chance to meet artists from a diverse range of mediums and experience levels; from illustrators to directors, dancers to make up artists,actors to choreographers.

Where? Ludus Dance, Assembly Rooms, Lancaster

When? 10am-3pm, Friday 17th February.

Places are limited click here to book your place and find out more about the event.

 

HMRC Self Assessment Help Sessions

Questions about your tax return?

Join one of HMRC’s live Self Assessment Help and Support sessions. Although nothing confidential can be discussed, the sessions will try to help in answering general questions such as those related to business expenses.

There are sessions running on the following dates:

Just click on the date to register for that particular session. There will be an on-screen textbox which can be used to ask questions during the sessions.

It is also worth taking a look at some of the free e-learning resources offered by HMRC including their: Tax Guide for the self-employed and Self-employed business expenses.

‘Self-promotion is for the brave…’

‘Greatest obstacle to success is obscurity’

In everyday life, self-promotion and marketing may often be regarded as showing off or associated with negative narratives such as that of a cheesy salesman. It is also a common human tendency to regard standing out as being negative in some way.

In this article, ‘Is promoting your art desperate?’ written by writer and illustrator, Alex Mathers, he attempts to dispel such ideas through discussing the importance of self-promotion.

He identifies how people need to flip their mind-sets to see promotion as a necessity, a duty and a moral obligation.

Without on-going promotion where will customers come from and as a result where will the money to live come from?

In his words people ‘cannot afford to sit on the side-lines & be reactive.’

Read the full article on Red Lemon Club.

 

Making Money from your PhD Workshop

Ever considered being your own boss or making a living from your PhD? Some students want to – you could too.

There are a number of ways in which you could achieve this: by commercialising your research, or by using it as a springboard for consultancy work. This workshop will help you to think about and learn ways in which you could possibly earn money, or make a living from your PhD. You’ll benefit and receive feedback in a very supportive space.

This workshop is ideal for groups of people or individuals in the 2nd, 3rd or later years of their PhD, when scope is more clearly defined.

You will be able to leave the workshop with a basic business plan or at least a detailed structure of the elements you need to consider for your own business plan. Prior to the workshop, you should think about particular topics or areas connected to your PhD that you may want to focus on or exploit (including different routes you’d like to go down).

There will be guest speakers attending, who will be able to give you constructive feedback on your ideas on the day, and also signpost you to other areas of support on campus or in the wider business community.

The workshop is on the 21st of July, 1-4pm.

For further information and booking see the event here

Tax Help for the Self-employed

Useful set of webinars to help you to fill in your tax returns and budget ahead of payment deadlines.

HMRC are running a useful set of webinars throughout July to to help self-employed people to plan ahead for the January deadline.

There will be two sessions on the 5th of July:

There are also a number of further webinars running from the 7th-13th of July on keeping records and what to claim:

All you have to do is follow the links to receive an invitation.

Click here for more details, and to read the full bulletin from HMRC.

Insurance for the Self-employed

Avoid any costly mistakes with the right insurance to cover your business – all you need to know!

It’s a topic which is often overlooked but is a very important element of self-employment. Nick Breton, head of small business insurer Direct Line for Business runs through the basis of contactors’ insurance in a blog for Enterprise Nation. It’s a very worthwhile and informative read – straightforwardly outlining everything you need to know on the topic.

Read it here

Business Support Surgery

Business Support Surgery on campus

Find out about the landscape of support for start-ups and existing businesses across the University and the wider region.

Lancaster University Enterprise Team and Winning Pitch invite anyone with a business idea or existing business to come along and find out about the range of support options available through the University and Boost, Lancashire’s Growth Hub.

Pre-booking is not required, just come along and meet Simon and Sue in InfoLab21, by the groundfloor reception  between 1pm and 4pm on Monday 6th June.

If you have any questions in advance, please email enterpriseteam@lancaster.ac.uk.

Book Summary 3# – A Blueprint for Business Success

The Lean Startup

About The Author

Eric Ries is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and author of the New York Times bestseller The Lean Startup. He is an entrepreneur in residence at Harvard Business School and is on the advisory board to a number of technology startups. Previously he co-founded and served as CTO at his company IMVU, his third startup. He has also been named one of the Best Young Entrepreneurs of Tech by BusinessWeek and was honoured with the TechFellow award in the category of Engineering Leadership. The Lean Startup Methodology has been written about in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Harvard Business Review as well as countless blogs.

EricRies

I imagine it is quite clear that today’s book summary covers The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. This book is the closest thing you can get to an exact blueprint for creating your very own successful business. It covers a number of key principles throughout, from just starting up, all the way to becoming sustainable, with everything in between. If you could only read one book before starting your business, this should be it.

The 5 principles

The book has 5 main principles which are present throughout.

  1. Entrepreneurs are everywhere and you can be one even if you don’t work from your garage.
  2. The second principle is that entrepreneurship is management. This means that a startup is an organisation, not just a product, and so it requires a new kind of management, specifically geared to its context of extreme uncertainty. So as an entrepreneur you have to learn how to steer your ship in the right direction, in very unpredictable conditions.
  3. The third principle is Validated Learning. This is to say that startups are not just there to make money, products and serve customers. They are there so you can learn exactly how to become sustainable which is done through constantly running experiments to test each part of the business. If you see that something is not working you can drop it and move on.
  4. The fourth principle is Build Measure Learn. This is the process of turning ideas into products and then measuring how the customers respond to the products. Then based on the feedback from customers learn whether they should pivot or persevere. All successful startup processes should be geared to making this loop happen as quickly as possible. For creating a sustainable business this is such an important step, the quicker you learn to complete this loop the more likely your business is to be stable.
  5. The final principle is Innovation accounting: To improve entrepreneurial outcomes and hold innovators accountable, we need to focus on the boring stuff. How to measure progress, how to set up milestones, and how to prioritise work.

Starting Off

To begin you need to know who your customer archetype is otherwise there is no point building your product. If you don’t know who your customer archetype is then you don’t know what a quality product looks like and if you can’t build quality there is no point building your product. So, to begin you need to identify who the customer is. The customer archetype will guide all of the decisions you make about product development and allocation of resources moving forward. So before you make anything, make sure you know exactly who you are making it for.

Second, you will at some point, regardless of what you do, take a leap of faith. No matter the amount of market research and your confidence in your product/service you will have to make assumptions on crucial things. The important thing is to know which part of your strategy is a leap of faith. Apple had no idea that people would pay for music downloads, they only knew from Napster that people would download it for free, that was their leap of faith and it definitely worked out.

Now you know who your customer is, you know what a quality product will be and you know that you will have to take a leap of faith at some point. Now is the time to actually build your first prototype. This is also known as an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) which is the most minimal product or service that you can build, the bare bones of your product. The reason you put this out there first before building the finished article is because you don’t know what your customer wants, it will take a lot of time to build something to completion that may not even work and if it is full of different features it is very difficult to measure what is and isn’t working. You need to start off with the minimum and gradually tweak it with customer feedback and metrics, which we will come onto shortly.

A great example of this is the online shoe retailer Zappos. Tony Hsieh started off by going into shoe shops and asking if he could take pictures of their shoes and then put the photos on his website. If people bought the shoes from his website he would come back and pay for the shoes in full. This was literally where he started off at, a simple website with a few different pairs of shoes on. This example puts into context how little you actually need to launch an MVP, it will more than likely be embarrassing to put out there as you know you can do much better but that is what early adopters are for. Early adopters are the people who will use your product to begin with and will understand that it has bugs in and is not the finished article. These customers will give you great feedback to help you make changes and refine the product to begin with. But in order for you to utilise their feedback you need to know exactly what your metrics are saying, what they mean to your business and what to look for.

The Metrics

Your metrics will help you find out exactly where your business is right now, this will provide you with a baseline to refer back to. When you put out your MVP the metrics you receive back will be your baseline metrics. The reason you set a baseline is so you can compare your metrics when you change a feature of your product, this enables you to see progress or a lack thereof. You can then cut what isn’t working and keep what is working one step at a time.

One of the biggest mistakes businesses make with their metrics however is that they look for vanity metrics rather than what actually matters. What I mean by vanity metrics is how many website views or even email signups you have. If you have a lot of visitors but people aren’t actually signing up or people are signing up and not paying for your service then you need to know why. By just measuring these two things nothing will be explained, you might feel good about yourself in the short term but in reality you are going to focus on actions that limit your success.

In order to get your metrics right you need to focus on hitting the 3 A’s.

Actionable – Your metrics demonstrate a clear cause and effect relationship so that you can take definitive action in response to it.

Accessible – They should be easy to understand and available to everyone in your company.

Auditable – You should be able to go back to the source of the data to prove that the metrics were telling the whole story.

A great example of this is Ries’ company IMVU who provided customers with a 3D avatar service where people could alter the appearance of their avatars and chat with others. Using $5 a day in pay per click advertising they were able to get 100 website visitors. They considered each days’ worth of website visitors as one cohort and then measured the metrics of each cohort on registration, so how many people signed up to the service, activation, so how many people actually logged into their account and retention, so how many people had one chat, how many people had 5 chats and how many people became paying customers. A good way to do this would be to have your metrics cover registration, activation, retention and referral information. The only way you can know if you are making the right decisions is through your metrics so if you make a change you can compare it to your baseline metrics to see if they improve or not, it is the only way to tell and the only way to know what you should and shouldn’t change.

Pivot or Persevere?

After improving your product through testing and measuring metrics you will need to make a big decision at some point and this will probably happen again and again. You will need to decide whether or not you should pivot (change the direction of your business in some aspect) or persevere (continue on with what you are doing.) Your metrics will help you make the best decision for your business. If you remember the whole process is about learning how to build a sustainable business, not how to make a single idea work, which is why you may need to pivot if the facts say. There is no shame in moving away from your original idea towards something that works. Here are a few different examples of pivots you can make:

Customer segment pivot: You started the process thinking you were solving a problem for a certain type of customer however now it looks like your product works best for a different type of customer.

Zoom in pivot: A singular aspect of your product becomes the entire focus of the business.

Zoom out pivot: Your product is too narrow for you to maintain a business so you broaden your product to do so.

Technology pivot: You realise that you could solve the problem much easier with a different or brand new technology and switch to that.

It is highly likely that throughout your startup journey you will make multiple pivots and it is equally important that you keep measuring everything, just like before, constantly comparing with the baselines. Each pivot is only the next hypothesis in your business just like everything in your business plan is a hypothesis, only over time will each segment of it become clearer and clearer. Even huge companies still need to measure and pivot from time to time otherwise they too will fail.

Growth

Now on top of all of this we need a growth engine, we will naturally be growing due to our constant tweaking and pivoting but we need a specific method to focus on for scaling up the business

Here are 3 growth engines that you can use to scale your business.

Sticky Growth Engine – This involves customers paying for the service over time, so if you are bringing in new customers quicker than your old customers are leaving then you will grow and make profit. An example of this would be a subscription model for a product.

Viral Growth Engine – This is reliant on your current customers bringing in new customers. The best example of this would be Hotmail which originally was struggling to make any traction until it began to provide a link at the bottom of each email for someone else to sign up. This is known as the viral loop, if you can get each new customer to bring in another customer every time then growth will be huge.

Paid Engine – The final engine is the paid engine which is literally paying for advertising. You take the profits you have made from your old customers and use them to pay for advertising.

Conclusion

If you have followed this guide you will have identified your customer archetype, built your MVP and then tested it on early adopters. You will have established your baseline metrics, made sure they are not vanity metrics and hit the 3 A’s. You will have taken a leap of faith but knew exactly what part of the strategy was a leap of faith and you will have at some point made a decision to pivot or persevere. You will have also selected a growth engine to scale your business. Now, if you take a look back at the 5 principles you will notice that they are present throughout the different steps you have taken to build a sustainable business. Throughout this process you have got better at managing your business throughout periods of extreme uncertainty, you have improved your validated learning and quickened the Build, Measure, Learn feedback loop as well as taking care of your innovation accounting through your metrics. Now there is still much to learn which I have not covered but this should provide you with the knowhow to grow your business sustainably. If you want to read it all you can find the book here.

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